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Taking Action in Olympia - February 19, 2021

02/19/2021
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Session Week 6, February 19, 2021

Moving forward for funding, equity, safety

This week we saw bills that are a priority for WEA move forward, both from committees to the chamber floors, and from the floor of their house of origin. Much of our key legislation is still poised to move forward this session.  SB 5044, a priority bill to train educators in equity and anti-racist practices, has already passed the Senate and awaits action in the House.  And HB 1342, eliminating school lunch co-pays, has moved on from the House to Senate committee. 

We’re also thrilled that the legislature is taking action that could begin balancing our upside-down tax code.  On Tuesday, the Senate passed SB 5096  capital gains on profits over $250,000.  If you haven’t yet, email the lawmakers who voted for it to say thank you.  The other component to balancing our tax code, HB 1297 to expand the working families tax exemption, is moving forward too.

What happened this week?

Fully fund schools

  • Create of a public investment cooperative - SB 5188 - WEA’s continuing resolutions supports the creation of a public cooperative bank.  The bill was heard in Ways and Means on Thursday and has a possible vote coming up on Monday.
  • Bond vote reform – SB 5386/SJR 8204 – Calls for amending the state constitution to allow 55 percent of voters to authorize school district bonds.  WEA prefers a simple majority for bond votes instead.  This legislation requires a two-thirds majority to pass since it would change the constitution.  It passed on Monday in Senate Early Learning and K-12 Education and is now in the Ways and Means Committee.
  • Pension security - SB 5021 - Would provide pension protections for those who have been furloughed during the pandemic.  WEA supports.  This bill has been pulled from Senate Rules and is ready for action by the full Senate.

Improve equity, dismantle racism, meet the needs of all students

  • Eliminate the edTPA – HB 1028 – The edTPA is a barrier to creating a more diverse and inclusive educator workforce. It’s a WEA priority to pass this bill to eliminate the edTPA requirement and replace it with rigorous standards for student teachers to demonstrate their skills.  It passed House Appropriations on Tuesday and is awaiting a floor debate.
  • Expand working families tax exemption – HB 1297 – If funded, this bill makes more Washingtonians eligible for the working families tax exemption in order to balance out our state’s regressive tax structure.  WEA supports this bill that passed out of House Appropriations today (Friday). 
  • Create a bridge year pilot program – SB 5265 – Would create pilot programs in high schools allowing students to defer graduation from high school in order to pursue additional learning to make up for COVID challenges.   Heard on Friday in Senate Ways and Means and scheduled for a possible committee vote Monday.
  • Education access post-incarceration – HB 1044 – Would ease the transition from incarceration to postsecondary education.  WEA supports.  This bill passed out of House Appropriations on Tuesday and awaits a floor debate.
  • School based health centers -- HB 1225 – Would allow districts to establish in-school health centers.  WEA supports.  This bill had a hearing in House Appropriations on Tuesday and passed out of Appropriations on Wednesday.
  • Diversity and equity training for higher education – SB 5227 – Would establish for higher education faculty and staff a professional development program on diversity, equity, inclusion, and anti-racism.  WEA supports.  The bill is scheduled for a possible vote in Ways and Means today (Friday).
  • Learning assistance program funding – HB 1208 – Would create more flexibility for the learning assistance program funding to better address learning gaps and mental health needs. WEA supports. It was heard in the House Appropriations committee on Thursday.
  • Institutional education programs - HB 1295 –    Would provide a plan to improve the educational programing and outcomes for students who are incarcerated.  WEA supports this bill which was passed unanimously by the House Appropriations committee today (Friday).
  • Mastery-based learning – SB 5249 – Would continue a work group to develop a WA state profile of a graduate describing the cross-disciplinary skills a student should have developed by the time they graduate high school. It was heard on Friday in Ways and Means and is scheduled for possible committee vote on Monday.

Address the challenges presented by COVID-19 recovery in schools

  • Alternative school-year calendars – SB 5147 – Would provide a pilot program giving districts  flexibility to change or extend their school year calendars in response to student needs from the COVID-19 pandemic.   WEA signed in “other.”  It was heard in Ways and Means Tuesday and is scheduled for possible vote Monday at 9:30 a.m.

Ensure school safety

  • Safe drinking water – HB 1139 – Would direct  testing  for lead in the drinking water of schools, disclose lead testing levels publicly, and make available technical guidance to help districts reduce lead levels.  WEA supports this bill which passed House Appropriations today (Friday).

What’s new next week?

The time for introduction of new legislation is over since we have passed committee cutoff and the bills still in play must be voted out of the fiscal committees, in this case Appropriations or Ways and Means, by the end of the day on Monday.  Next week, we expect many hours of debate on the chamber floor as bills pass out of the chamber of origin.  We will be watching our priorities closely as they move to their second chamber. 

Improve equity, dismantle racism, meet the needs of all students

  • Eliminate indigenous mascots - HB 1356 – Would prohibit the inappropriate use of Native American names, symbols, or images as public school mascots, logos, or team names.   WEA supports.  It passed out of House Education committee and awaits a floor vote.
  • Allow districts to build affordable educator housing – SB 5043 – Would update the current provisions allowing districts to construct housing to provide tax incentives to build affordable educator housing on school district land. WEA testified pro.  Scheduled for a possible vote in Ways and Means on Monday at 9:30 a.m.
  • Increase equity and diversity at community and technical colleges – SB 5194 – Would require development of diversity, equity, and inclusion strategic plans and implements student success programs.  WEA supports.  Scheduled for a possible vote in Ways and Means on Monday at 9:30 a.m.

Ensure school safety

  • Grants for teaching media literacy – SB 5242 – Would direct the OSPI to create a grant program to support school librarians in teaching media and digital literacy.  WEA supports this bill.  It is scheduled for a possible vote in Ways and Means on Monday.

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